The rising national suicide rate is being driven by increases among younger people and among people of color, according to a new report.
Significant increases in suicide occurred among Native American, Black and Hispanic people, with a startling rise among young Black people. Meanwhile, the rate of suicide among older people declined between 2018 and 2021, the CDC reported Friday.
In 2021, 48,183 people died by suicide in the U.S., which equates to a suicide rate of 14.1 per 100,000 people. That level equals the 2018 suicide rate, which had seen a peak that was followed by declines associated with the pandemic.
Experts said rebounding suicide rates are common following times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Suicide declines have also occurred during times of war and natural disaster, when psychological resilience tends to increase and people work together to overcome shared adversity.
“That will wane, and then you will see rebounding in suicide rates. That is, in fact, what we feared would happen. And it has happened, at least in 2021,” Christine Moutier, MD, the chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told The New York Times.
The new CDC report found that the largest increase was among Black people ages 10 to 24 years old, who experienced a 36.6% increase in suicide rate between 2018 and 2021. While Black people experience mental illness at the same rates as the general population, they historically have disproportionately limited access to mental health care, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
CDC report authors noted that some of the biggest increases in suicide rates occurred among groups most affected by the pandemic.
From 2018 to 2021, the suicide rate for people ages 25 to 44 increased among Native Americans by 33.7% and among Black people by 22.9%. Suicide also increased among multiracial people by 20.6% and among Hispanic or Latino people by 19.4%. Among white people of all ages, the suicide rate declined or remained steady.
“As the nation continues to respond to the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, remaining vigilant in prevention efforts is critical, especially among disproportionately affected populations where longer-term impacts might compound preexisting inequities in suicide risk,” CDC researchers wrote.
CDC: “Notes from the Field: Recent Changes in Suicide Rates, by Race and Ethnicity and Age Group — United States, 2021.”
The New York Times: “Following a Two-Year Decline, Suicide Rates Rose Again in 2021.”
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